Introduction – Rescuing The Lost Ones
Introduction To Book Ten – Witnessing
Ron Christian, Compiler
There was nothing that thrilled me more, when I served as long-term pastor of the Free Methodist Church (1967-1994) in Fort Collins, Colorado, than personally to witness precious persons repenting of their sins and turning their lives over to Jesus Christ. The coming of Christ into the lives and families of seeking souls always spelled divinely-wrought transformation! Even though I never felt I had the God-given 'gift of evangelism', I did, as a pastor, take Paul's exhortation seriously: "Do the work of an evangelist." As a young pastor of 22 years of age (in 1967), I determined that, in spite of my 'natural timidity', I would ask God to discipline me to "reach out in love" to hurting and spiritually-hungry people who desperately needed Christ. Since I grew up in a small local church (where there were hardly any men in the Church), and since my own father did not become a Christian until very late in his life (about four years before his death), I decided that I would always try to lead both husband and wife to Christ together in their homes in the evenings. I dedicated three evenings a week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday evenings) to go into homes to witness and hopefully to lead some couples (and entire families if possible) to a saving knowledge of Christ. In spite of my fears and hesitations, mistakes and human weaknesses, God saw fit to allow me to be His 'mouthpiece' to speak to hundreds of unsaved persons about their need for Christ. On an appointment basis (what I called 'Salvation By Appointments'), I had the glorious privilege of personally leading several hundred adults to Christ. Only about 20-40 new converts per year, but over a period of some 25 years the Lord performed many transforming miracles right before my eyes! These included older persons in their 60's, 70's, 80's, as well as teens and young adults and middle-agers. A short time after I left the 'pastoral ministry', I had the thrilling experience of a 93 year old lady repeating after me the sinner's prayer. That woman (at this particular time) is still living, and I have observed during these last few years that she has grown much closer to God. She still evidences faith in Christ, and she anticipates making heaven her 'eternal home'. A short time after I prayed with this 93 year old lady, I prayed with a 78 year old lady (who, according to her own confession, had not attended church for 30 years). After reading the story of Nicodemus (John 3), I asked her if she wanted to make sure that she was ready to meet God in peace (if – or when – she would die). I asked her if she wanted to repeat after me 'a prayer of confession and faith'. She quickly answered, "Yes, of course!" Less than two months after this woman prayed to accept Christ as her Savior, she died, of a heart attack (on November 1, 1996), and I conducted her funeral service. This woman manifested such glory and joy in her countenance, the last moments before she died, that her two children (neither of whom were known for their personal faith in Christ) both testified that they believed the 'holy angels' came and carried away their beloved mother! The woman's 'unsaved' son said to me: "If I ever doubted that there is an afterlife, I no longer doubt it now, after seeing the peace and joy on my mother's face as she died!" This 78 year old woman (who prayed the 'sinner's prayer' only a few
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weeks before her death) is only one of several older folks whom it has been my privilege personally to lead to Christ. (Don't 'buy into the myth' that 'older persons are unreachable as far as salvation is concerned, for their hearts are too hardened by sin'. Thousands of older ones are waiting for someone to lead them to the 'foot of the cross' before it is too late! Reach out to them, and lovingly talk to them about the compassionate and forgiving Christ!)
Of course, there have been several hundreds of young adults and middle age couples whose hands I have held (around their own dining room tables at the conclusion of a "Salvation By Appointment" Bible Study), as they repeated the 'sinner's prayer'. After pastoring for nearly 27 years, I left that wonderful pastorate, but I have not left my blessed memories behind of the nights in the homes of hundreds of couples who humbled themselves in my presence as they repented of their sins and turned in faith to the merciful Savior. Some years ago, I recall being in the presence of a family of seven (father, mother, four children and an elderly grandmother), all of whom opened their hearts to the Living Christ! For several years (until this family moved to another community) all seven of these 'beautiful persons' were actively and joyously involved as 'workers and servants' in the local church where I pastored.
The local church where I pastored for so long never was a very large congregation. It grew numerically from about 35 to 350 worship attenders (on Sunday morning) during the years I pastored, and, because there was considerable mobility in this professionally oriented (college) city, I was actually pastor of several' different congregations' (because hundreds of people 'came and went' through the years). I felt God's presence so often as I preached, taught, visited, organized, and carried on the multitude of pastoral tasks in a small but growing local church – but I never felt the power of the Holy Spirit's presence as strongly as I did when I was in the hundreds of homes of 'unsaved people', leading them to Christ through my "Salvation By Appointment" Home Bible Studies. When I left this long-term pastorate, my 'Church Directory' had about 170 names and addressees of families which composed my small 'flock' of parishioners. Out of these 170 families, there were 60 of these families with whom I had personally prayed to accept Christ (in their homes through the SBA Bible studies). Many of the local church's strongest and most active leaders came from these persons who had been converted and discipled through our church's ministries.
Many local churches throughout America, like our own local church, have primarily increased in size because of consistent and solid 'Convert Growth'. Of course, there is nothing necessarily 'wrong' with other kinds of growth in a local church – i.e., 'biological growth' through babies being born to church members, or 'transfer growth' through believers who join your local church after they move to your community from another community, or 'sideways growth' as a result of believers who leave another local church in the same community to join your local church – but the most important growth is 'Convert Growth' (i.e., growth as a result of your own local church's soul-winning
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Jesus Christ chose twelve men through whom to spread His teachings and to establish His Church in the world. He commanded His disciples to take the Gospel to all nations. The command primarily involved spreading the Gospel in lands which were under the rule of the Roman Empire. To obey Christ's command (to make disciples in all nations) meant to endure harsh persecution, separation from family, and even death (martyrdom).
Christ showed a tremendous trust in the disciples when he assigned such an immense task of world evangelization to them! Christ spent many months with his disciples instructing, preparing, and encouraging them. He knew that He would soon be gone from the earth (at least in his physical 'form'), and the disciples must carry on His work and His teachings. Christ chose the twelve to be his 'instruments' through whom a world could be won for Him. Jesus said to His followers, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you."
The disciples whom Jesus chose were ordinary men. They had no formal college or seminary education, and they enjoyed little or no 'social distinction'. It was to these men that Jesus commanded: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." (Matthew 28:19)
Matthew 28:19 (just quoted) is Jesus' 'Mandate to the Church'. The dictionary defines 'mandate' as 'command, edict, statute, commission'.
It is not an option, it is a mandate! A command! A commission!
This is a mandate to every Christian! Every Christian is to be about the 'Father's business' – i.e., making disciples of Jesus! Yes, 'disciples', not 'mere converts'.
The Holy Spirit is the 'motivating power' by which the 'mandate' can be fulfilled. The Spirit who empowers the 'yielded believer' is the same Spirit who applies the transforming 'message' to the lives of convicted sinners whom the Spirit-filled disciples reach out to. The creative Holy Spirit also shows the creative believer the 'manners' and the 'methods' in spreading this important message.
The believer who sincerely seeks to be a participant in helping to fulfill Jesus' 'Great Commission' (and every believer, without exception, should desire to be a participant), needs to understand the 'basics' regarding Witnessing. Let us, therefore, briefly look at (1) The Mandate for Witnessing; (2) The Motivation for Witnessing, (3) The Message for Witnessing; (4) The Methods in Witnessing; (5) The Manner: in Witnessing.
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Think, First, of the Mandate for Witnessing. Jesus told his disciples, "I have been given all authority in heaven and earth. Therefore go and make disciples in all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and then teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you; and be sure of this – that I am with you always, even to the end of the world." (Matthew 28:18-20, Living Bible) Making 'disciples', not mere 'converts', is the central task of the church. In Matthew 28:19-20, the 'main' verb (with its 'object') is 'Make Disciples'. There are three 'supporting verbs' (i.e., participles) – 'Going', 'Baptizing', 'Teaching'. When disciples of Jesus are prayerfully involved in the activities of 'going' to win sinners to Christ, and of 'baptizing' new believers, and of 'teaching' growing believers, then the result is 'maturing disciples' of Christ! Think briefly of each of these 'supporting verbs'. There is 'Going' – i.e., make contracts with sinners and 'build bridges of friendship' with them. Don't expect the 'sinners' to come to your church building, any more than you would expect a Christian (yourself or any other believer) to 'take initiative' to walk into a tavern. As a Christian, it is your responsibility to 'go after' the sinner – i.e., to take the initiative to contact the sinner. Jesus went to people as a shepherd goes after his lost sheep (Luke 15). Note Luke 14:23 – "Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full" (not coercion, but the compulsion of caring and persuasive love). Says Matthew 13:3 – "Behold a sower went forth to sow seed." Matthew 14:14 – "And Jesus went forth and saw a great multitude." Mark 6:7 – "Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits." If you remain in your church (waiting for sinners to come to your church), you will likely be disappointed, but if you reach out to them and eventually lead them to Christ, many of these converts will come to 'your church'. The second 'supporting verb' (participle) is 'Baptizing', which is the activity that naturally follows a person's conversion to Christ. Water baptism is simply (and wonderfully) 'an outward sign of an inward work of grace'. It is a public 'induction into the Christian Faith', and, as such, can be a powerful 'witness' for Christ to the 'unsaved' friends of the new convert. The third 'supporting verb' is 'Teaching'. Everything we do and everything we teach in the local church must be evaluated to determine if the activities and subjects (courses) are helping to carry out the "Great Commission' (directly or indirectly). It is our job (as church leaders) to 'produce' committed members of Christ's Church! It is our responsibility to help believers to become disciplined in their total lifestyle. In thought, in attitudes, in actions, in priorities, in habits, in Christian service.
Think, Second, of the Motivation for Witnessing. What is the motivation for heeding the Mandate (command) of Christ to 'make disciples'? Our motivation is the blessed Holy Spirit who 'sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts'. (Romans 5:5). Without that special love – a divine-type love – we will not have the desire (motivation) or the power to witness effectively. Said Jesus, shortly before His ascension, "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit… You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you: and you will be my witnesses in
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Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:4-5, Acts 1:8)
Acts 2:1-4 records the fulfillment of this promise. "When the day of Pentecost came they (the followers of Christ) were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." The significant thing about this passage is not the 'tongues', or the 'flames of fire', or the 'mighty rushing wind'. The all-important and lasting truth is this: Those who wait for and pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit shall surely be filled. Filled with love and power and boldness to witness.
Note the specific instructions which 'Christ gave to His disciples before He ascended: "Don't leave Jerusalem, wait for the Father's promise." (Acts 1:4) Before the disciple goes, he must wait. "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." (Isaiah 40:31) Says William Barclay, "There are times when the Christian may seem to be wasting time, when he must wait in a wise passivity! Action without preparation must of necessity fail. There is a time to wait on God and a time to work for God." (Daily Study Bible; William Barclay; Luke; pg. 312)
The disciples who waited were filled with the Spirit. The result? Great power in witnessing and in preaching. Peter, the very one who earlier had denied Jesus, was now 'Peter the Bold', preaching to the very 'enemies' who were responsible for Jesus' crucifixion. The result of his preaching? Look at Acts 2:38-41. After Peter preached his powerful sermon, he said, "Repent and he baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call." With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them. 'Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.' Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day."
What 'explains' the dynamic ministry of the 'great soul-winners' throughout the ages? It is true that not all Spirit-filled persons are 'great soul-winners', but it is also Biblically – sound to declare that no person (believer) can be a great soul-winner unless he is first 'Filled with the Holy Spirit'. Notes William Barclay, regarding the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts: "The Holy Spirit was the source of all guidance. All the leaders of the Church were men of the Spirit The Spirit was the source of day to day courage and power. The Christian's courage to meet the dangerous situation; the Christian eloquence was needed; the Christian joy which was independent of circumstances are all alike ascribed to the work of the Spirit. In the first thirteen chapters of Acts there "are more than forty references to the Holy Spirit. The early Church was a Spirit-filled Church and precisely therein lay its power." (Daily Study Bible; William Barclay; Acts;
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pgs. 12, 13)
The effective soul-winner is a person who is filled with the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who is the 'great motivator' for witnessing, Dr. A.B. Simpson, founder of the 'Christian and Missionary Alliance' Church, speaks of this 'crisis' of Spirit-filling in his own life: "The Lord Jesus revealed Himself as a living and all-sufficient presence, and I learned for the first time that Christ had not saved us from future peril, and left us to fight the battle of life as best we could; but He who had justified us was waiting to sanctify us, to enter into our spirit, and substitute His strength, His holiness, His joy, His love, His faith, His power, for all our worthlessness, helplessness and nothingness, and make it an actual living fact."
Have you been 'filled with the Holy Spirit' since you became a Christian? Here are the important 'steps' to take (to 'be filled' and to 'stay filled' with the Spirit): (a) Confess all known sins to God and accept His forgiveness; (b) Surrender all known areas of your life to God, to allow Him to exercise His sovereign and 'rightful' control of your life; (c) Believe in the Father's 'Promise' to fill you with the Holy Spirit; (d) Obey every known command which God reveals to you in the Word; (e) Receive, by faith, the fullness of the Holy Spirit into your mind and soul and spirit and body as God's greatest Gift to you; (f) Daily receive the available (divine) resources from your loving God, that you might live a consistently victorious Christian life.
Think, Third, of the Message of Witnessing. Understanding the Mandate for witnessing and receiving the Motivation for witnessing (namely, the fullness of the Spirit), one must ask 'What is the Message which is to be communicated in preaching and witnessing in the world?' What was the 'basic message' that was 'declared' to sinners during the days of the 'Early Church'? As learned from a study of the 'messages' in the Book of Acts, here is, in summary form, the essence of that 'declaration': (1) God's purpose in history is to establish a 'new order' – an order of grace to replace the 'order of law'; (2) God has inaugurated that 'new order' through Jesus Christ, whose life and death and resurrection have made it possible for all persons to become members of the community and family of God; (3) Because Christ has been exalted to the 'right hand of God', He is the Christ of the Ages, forever contemporary and 'a very present help in time of need'. Christ is not a historical remembrance but He is the present reality and the personal Savior; (4) Christ is not only the Savior of all mankind, but He is also the Judge of all humanity, before whom all persons must eventually give an account of their lives (at the end of the 'present age'); (5) Because one's response to Christ determines one's personal destiny, it is imperative that one repents of his sins, and that he accepts Christ's standards ('way of life') for his life. To do so results in a rich reward – present forgiveness and new life and future hope and eternal life. God demands that all men repent – i.e., turn from their wicked ways and in faith turn to God.
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The 'content' of our modern-day preaching and witnessing (to sinners) must be based on the message of the Bible (as preached in the Early Church), but the method and the approach in presenting that message must be 'adapted' to the modern-day 'thought patterns and forms'.
One popular (simple) approach in presenting that ancient 'message of salvation' is as follows:
(1) Fact of Sin. Notes C.S. Lewis: "A sense of sin is almost totally lacking. Our situation is thus very different from that of the Apostles. The Pagans to whom they preached were haunted by a sense of guilt and to them the Gospel was, therefore, 'good news'. We address people who have been trained to believe that whatever goes wrong in the world is someone else's fault – the Capitalists', the Government's, the Nazis', the Generals' etc. They approach God Himself as His judges. They want to know, not whether they can be acquitted for sin, but whether He can be acquitted for creating such a world.
"I cannot offer you a water-tight technique for awakening the sense of sin. I can only say that, in my experience, if one begins from the sin that has been one's own chief problem during the last week, one is very often surprised at the way this shaft goes home. But whatever method we use, our continual effort must be to get their mind away from public affairs and 'crime' and bring them down to brass tacks – to the whole network of spite, greed, envy, unfairness and conceit in the lives of 'ordinary decent people' like themselves (and ourselves)." (God In The Dock; C.S. Lewis; pgs. 95,96) We, as witnesses, must 'identify' with sinners; we are not to 'judge' them, but only to share Christ with them. We must say something like this: "If Christ can save a sinner like me, He can save anyone including you."
(2) Seriousness of Sin. So many people make 'light' of sin, sometimes even denying its existence. You, as a witness, cannot persuade people that they are 'sinners'; only the blessed Holy Spirit can do that (John 16: 8). Unless and until the Holy Spirit 'awakens' sinners to their true moral condition, and brings 'deep conviction' regarding the serious consequences of unrepented sin, these persons will continue to 'rationalize' their sins: 'all humans make mistakes', and 'no one is perfect', and 'I am as good as those hypocrites in that church', and 'it is his/her fault that I am as I am', etc., etc. When there is a failure to take personal moral responsibility for one's actions, there is no repentance.
(3) Insufficiency of 'Good Works'. Even 'good actions' are tainted with pride. "All of us have become like one who is unclean and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags." (Isaiah 64:6) Pride is the 'mother' of all sins. Notes Donald Demaray, "Man commits no wrong which is not traceable to pride; to put it
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another way, every sin man commits is the product of a desire to protect the ego or self. Murder, adultery, stealing, falsifying, and any and every sin that man has ever committed or ever will commit is the result of pride… It is an amazing fact that every sin does, in fact, issue from pride. If a man commits adultery he does so to gratify self; he is doing what selfish desire dictates rather than respecting personality. If we covet we are aggravating the temptation to take what is not rightfully ours but something we imagine will make us happy. If we tell an untruth we are really 'covering up' to prevent humiliation." (Basic Beliefs; Donald Demaray; pgs. 51-53) Our 'good works' are not good enough to save us. If we could save ourselves, there would have been no need for the coming and the death of Jesus Christ on a cross. It is because we were helpless that Christ came to save us.
(4) Jesus Christ alone can save a sinner. Why? Because He is the Son of God. Because He alone is sinless. Because He paid the penalty for our sins (satisfying the 'justice' of God). Because He loves us (sinners) supremely and He is not willing that any should perish!
Think, Fourth, of the Methods of Witnessing. Bishop Donald Bastian suggests four specific ways to witness effectively:
(1) Informal and Spontaneous Witnessing. Every Christian likely knows someone who is not a Christian. Many people (unbelievers) give you 'leads' ('openings') to talk to them about God. You, as a witness, can use a 'lead question' that you address to an unbeliever, to begin to talk to him about God. Here are a couple 'lead questions': (a) "Do you presently have peace with God, or are you in the process of finding peace with God?" (b) "If you were to die tonight, would you know for sure that you were going to heaven?" Simply share honestly what Christ has done for you and how you 'found' God. Don't preach. Don't judge. Don't be 'unnatural'. Be relaxed and sincere and honest. Be humble and approachable and 'vulnerable'. Be personable. Point people to Christ, not to yourself or to your personal 'religious experience'. Don't be afraid to talk about your 'experience' of finding God (and the life-changing results from such an 'encounter'), but don't make your 'experience' (with all the emotional aspects from that 'experience') 'normative' for everyone else. Don't 'force' your experience or your personal 'convictions' on others, but simply and joyously share Christ (as He is clearly revealed in the Word of God). Ask God to reveal to you the 'natural opportunities' for witnessing in your routine 'contacts' with your friends and relatives and business associates and neighbors, and ask God to enable you to witness as a 'way of life' (naturally, informally, regularly, spontaneously).
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(2) Organized Witnessing. Ask God if it is His will for you to participate in your local church's 'outreach programs', such as 'visitation teams', door-to-door literature distribution, or 'Salvation By Appointment' Home Bible Studies. One 'simple' but 'saintly lady' whom I knew for several years before her 'heavenly home-going' had a rather 'unique way' of witnessing to the unsaved persons in her life. She purchased a new Bible each year and, after she read that particular Bible (sometimes a different 'translation' each year), she would give away (as a gift) that Bible to a friend or relative, as a witness to them. Of course, the Bible often was filled with 'special markings' noting those passages of Scripture which meant so much to her. Some persons use 'tracts' to witness (either passing them out 'in person' or sending them to unsaved friends when they write letters). My wife's sister and her husband (members of the 'Gideon International') have distributed many hundreds of New Testaments (which include a clearly outlined 'plan of Salvation') to waitresses in many restaurants, in motels, in doctors' offices and hospital rooms, on college campuses, to service stations, etc., etc. To cultivate 'discipline' in witnessing, and to receive encouragement from 'fellow witnesses' as well as 'accountability', many Christians have found that being a regular participant in an organized (local church) 'outreach' program has been very 'worthwhile'.
(3) Supplemental Witnessing. This is the witness of 'good-deeds'. We are not saved By good works, but we are saved FOR good works (according to Ephesians 2:8-10). It is recorded of Dorcus (Acts 9:36) that she was "a believer who was always doing kind things for others, especially for the poor." A consistently 'good life' (full of 'good deeds'), combined with a 'clear verbal witness' regarding the saving power of Christ, greatly 'impacts' sinners, convincing them of the 'reality' of God and of their personal need for His wonderful salvation.
(4) Unconscious Witnessing. Notes Donald Bastian, "Undergirding spontaneous, organized, and supplemental witness, Christians at their best bear an unconscious witness to the saving power of Jesus Christ. From the start they are called to take seriously not only God's free and gracious offer of the forgiveness of sins but also His call to holiness of heart and life. Holy people – saints – are never conscious of their own holiness, but their lives take on a quality which the world cannot help but notice." (Adventures In Belonging; pg. 83)
Think, Fifth, of the Manner in Witnessing. The following is a 'list' which can help persons to prepare themselves for an effective life of witnessing. (1) Be sure you are a Christian (that you have truly been 'born again'); (2) As a believer, be sure that there is no unconfessed sin in your life; (3) Be sure that you are 'filled with the Spirit' and that you are daily 'walking obediently in the Spirit'; (4) Be prepared to share your faith, using a 'simple plan' to do your witnessing; (5) Make a 'prayer list' of those with whom you would like to share the 'plan of salvation' (and your personal 'testimony') this
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coming year, and pray ('faith believing' prayers) every day for those whom you have listed. Specifically ask God to 'embolden' you and to guide you (at the appropriate time) to witness; (6) Put 'feet to your prayers' and actually GO and make contact with your 'sinner friends'. Set up an 'appointment' to share the 'Good News' of Christ with them (usually 'on their own turf' – i.e., in their own home or office). When you share the 'simple plan' of salvation with them, remember to be courteous and 'discreet', but also 'open' and 'honest' and 'frank' and 'bold'. Keep your 'presentation' clear and concise and appropriately 'brief' (without sacrificing accuracy); (7) Depend on the Holy Spirit (not on your own 'brilliance' or 'articulation' or 'experience' or 'training') as you present the wonderful 'plan of salvation'. You are in your friend's home, not to 'impress' your friend with yourself, but to uplift the 'beautiful Christ' and to introduce your friend to the Greatest Friend of all (the Lord Jesus); (8) Talk about Jesus primarily, and only about your church and your own 'spiritual experience' secondarily. Don't try to 'sell' your church (even though you 'love' it very much). If people come to know your Christ, they likely will want to enjoy your local church (and will probably become a 'member' of your church) eventually; (9) Expect God to use you! God can and will transform lives through you (your love and your 'witness'). God greatly desires to use you as His 'effective instrument'. But remember, your 'success' in witnessing is not determined by mere visible or 'quick' results. It is your part to be obedient; it is God's part to give an increase (i.e., a spiritual 'harvest'). Don't grow weary in well-doing, for in due season you will reap if you do not faint. Be steadfast and unmovable, always abounding in the work of God, for your labor is not in vain in the Lord. "Success in witnessing is simply taking the initiative to share Christ in the power of the Spirit, and then leaving the results with God" (Campus Crusade For Christ); (10) Establish a 'Follow-up plan' for the young Christian. This is vitally important! Take care of the young converts. Either you or some other believer must meet weekly with your new converts (for at least eight to ten weeks) to share the 'basics' in Christian living. There are many excellent 'follow-up' booklets designed especially for new converts. Use them!
Wrote Paul to young Timothy: "The Holy Spirit, God's gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them." (2 Timothy 1:7, Living Bible) A fear, unique to many Christians, is the 'fear of witnessing'. We Christians are too often close-mouthed when we should be verbalizing the Good News to spiritually-needy people. In the name of 'tact', we sometimes fail to 'speak up' for Christ. Because of our fear of rejection or our fear of being misunderstood, we remain quiet and passive, hoping that in 'some way' our lives will 'speak' for Jesus without our offering a single 'word' for Jesus.
Paul declared, "I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is God's powerful method of bringing all who believe it to heaven. This message was preached first to the Jews alone, but now everyone is invited to come to God in this same way." (Romans 1:16, Living Bible)
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Paul requested his friends to pray for him, that be might remain bold in his witness for Christ. "Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." (Ephesians 6:19-20, Living Bible)
Our 'guilty silence' regarding our communication of the forgiving grace of God to sinners, must be broken! We Christians must boldly proclaim from the 'housetops' that God is alive, that He is a saving God, that He invites everyone to repent and to find new life in Christ! "For God was in Christ, restoring the world to himself, no longer counting men's sins against them but blotting them out. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. We are Christ's ambassadors." (2 Corinthians 5:19-20)
We must not be bound by our fears regarding our call to witness to unbelievers. God's power is able to give us deliverance from our bondage to fear. Said Jesus, "But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power to testify about me with great effect." (Acts 1:8, Living Bible) As a sincere believer, open your life anew to the Holy Spirit each day, to receive a 'fresh outpouring' of holy love and compassion for the 'lost ones' all around you.
When we are released from the fear of witnessing, we will see God's church grow in an unprecedented way! Multitudes will be added to the Church of Jesus Christ (and this is already happening all around the world). When we are delivered from our fear of people and our fear of witnessing to people, we will begin confronting people lovingly with the claims of Christ. "Witnessing' results in 'soul-winning', and 'soul-winning' results eventually in new and dynamic local church growth. It is still true that 'convert growth' is the best kind of growth for a local church. Notes David Mains, "Conversions always 'work' the church during times of revival. Church growth is not through transfer of membership, it is not through people fleeing the churches of the city to come to the suburbs, but the growth is because many new people bow before the King and say, 'Please accept me as part of your kingdom, Jesus.'"
To get over the fear of witnessing, a believer must 'die' to his own reputation. You may be considered foolish in the eyes of the 'world', if you try to witness. It is said that once a bold 'witnessing Christian' walked down the street of a large city, with a placard hanging from his neck which read "I'm a fool for Jesus! Whose fool are you?" Wrote Paul, "I know very well how foolish the simple message of the cross of Christ sounds to those who are lost. But we who are saved recognize this message as the very power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18, Living Bible)
The effective soul-winner is one who is 'dead' to self-centeredness and selfish interest. George Muller was one whose goal in life was to please God. He wrote: "There was a day when I died – died to George Muller, his opinions, preferences, tastes, and will. I
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died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame of my brethren and friends; and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God."
The effective soul-winner is one who is daily dedicated to his task of winning souls. This is the 'passion' of his life! Said one of John Wesley's contemporaries regarding Wesley's 'passion' for souls: "To one great purpose he dedicated his power of body and mind; for this he relinquished all honor and preferment. At all times and in all places, in season and out of season, by gentleness, by terror, by argument, by persuasion, by reason, by interest, by every motive and every inducement, he strove, with unwearied assiduity, to turn men from the error of their ways and awaken them to virtue and religion. To the bed of sickness, or the couch of prosperity; to the prison or the hospital; to the house of mourning or the house of feasting, wherever there was a friend to serve or a soul to save, he readily repaired. He thought no office too humiliating, no condescension too low, no undertaking too arduous, to reclaim the meanest of God's offspring. The souls of all men were of equal value in his sight and the salvation of the immortal creature unutterably precious." (Quoted in 'Goodly Heritage'; J. Paul Taylor; pg. 69)
One time Kipling was on a world tour, and he saw General William Booth (founder of the 'Salvation Army') board his ship amidst a horde of tambourine-beating 'Salvationists'. This scene revolted the 'sensitive' and 'sophisticated' Kipling, and when Kipling later got to know General Booth, Kipling told Booth of his disapproval of the incident. Booth replied to the disapproving Kipling: "Young man, if I thought that I could win one more soul for Christ by standing on my hands and beating a tambourine with my feet I would learn to do it."
When a modern-day saint, Toyohika Kagawa, first became acquainted with Christianity he cried out: "O God, make me like Christ." To follow Christ's example, Kagawa went to live in the slums, although he himself had tuberculosis. He lived in a six foot by six foot hut in a Tokyo slum. Cecil Northcott tells what Kagawa did. "On his first night he was asked to share his bed with a man suffering from contagious itch. That was a test of his faith. Would he go back on his point of no return? No. He welcomed his bed-fellow. Then a beggar asked for his shirt and got it. Next day he was back for Kagawa's coat and trousers, and got them too. Kagawa was left standing in a ragged old kimono. The slum dwellers of Tokyo laughed at him, but they came to respect him. He stood in the driving rain to preach, coughing all the time. 'God is love', he shouted. 'God is love. Where love is, there is God'. He often fell down exhausted, and the rough men of the slums carried him gently back to his hut." Only in heaven, when the 'Books of God' are opened, will we know the number and quality of this godly man's 'good-works' – the 'works of love' which pointed many to the 'Christ of the Ages!'
Kagawa himself wrote: "God dwells among the lowliest of men. He sits on the dust heap among the prison convicts. He stands with juvenile delinquents. He is there with the beggars: He is among the sick. He stands with the unemployed. Therefore, let him who
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would meet God visit the prison cell before going to the temple. Before he goes to Christ let him visit the hospital. Before he reads his Bible let him help the beggar."
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o'er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.
Though they are slighting Him, still He is waiting,
Waiting the penitent child to receive;
Plead with them earnestly, plead with them gently,
He will forgive if they only believe.
Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness,
Cords that are broken will vibrate once more.
Rescue the perishing, duty demands it -
Strength for your labor the Lord will provide;
Back to the narrow way patiently win them,
Tell the poor wanderer a Savior has died.
Rescue the perishing, Care for the dying;
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.
"Then I heard the Lord asking, 'Whom shall I send as a messenger to my people? Who will go?' And I said, 'Lord, I'll go! Send me."' (Isaiah 6:8, Living Bible) Will you be a "Great Commission" Christian? But (come to 'think about it'), is there any other kind of Christian? Isn't a 'non-witnessing Christian' a 'contradiction in terms'?
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A WORKING FAITH
Give me the faith which can remove
And sink the mountain to a plain;
Give me the child-like praying love,
Which longs to build thy house again;
My every sacred moment spend
In publishing the sinners' Friend.
I 'want an even, strong desire,
I want a calmly fervent zeal,
To save poor souls out of the fire,
To snatch them from the verge of hell,
And turn them to a pardoning God,
And quench the brands in Jesus' blood.
I would the precious time redeem,
And longer live for this alone,
To spend, and to be spent, for them
Who have not yet my Saviour known;
Fully on these my mission prove,
And only breathe, to breathe thy love.
Enlarge, inflame, and fill my heart
With boundless charity divine!
So shall I all my strength exert,
And love them with a zeal like thine;
And lead them to thy open side,
The sheep for whom their Shepherd died.
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